To become a successful freelancer, you need to have some skills within your area of expertise. You can though further improve your freelance business by following our advice. Find out how to get more jobs and earn more money and become a better independent worker.
1. What is your minimum hourly price?
If you do not know the answer to that question, you need to sit down right away and determine your price. Knowing your own worth is absolutely critical, for two simple reasons.
- It sends a signal to the employer.
- It gives you a level of personal security, knowing that you will always work at a price that you believe matches your value.
Imagine these two scenarios where an employer ask a freelancer what his/her price is?
- Freelancer A: “I am not sure, we can always discuss that. What did you have in mind”? The employer says 40 EUR and freelancer counters with 45 EUR.
- Freelancer B: “I charge a minimum of 50 EUR an hour. This is non-negotiable. Based on experience with similar jobs in the past, I estimate that this job will take two weeks working 8-hour days five days a week.”
Who will the employer choose?
Most employers will choose Freelancer B. No kidding. Freelancer A may be 5 EUR an hour cheaper, but also displays a great lack of insecurity and lack of experience by not knowing his/her price.
Knowing your own value is important because it sends a strong signal. Also remember that employers often have no idea what your services are worth. They just want to make sure they get value for their money.
In addition, you need to be consequent about your minimum hourly price. This will ensure that you do not take on projects where you do not make enough money for it to be profitable. Freelancing isn’t free, remember that.
But how do you determine your own value/price?
This can be difficult in the beginning but start by taking a look at other freelancers in your business. Start by asking those you know and move on to find cheap, average and expensive freelancers. Find other workers who offer somewhat similar services as you. Remember to be honest and realistic about your capabilities.
Compare yourself to others in the market and then determine in which price range you should be in.
But remember to consider the personal costs associated with running your own business. This could be food and living expenses, office equipment, personal website, marketing, accounting etc.
And for specific projects, always calculate any personal costs associated with completing the job. Will you have to use money on transportation for the job – public or car? Do you have to buy a software program or any other tool to complete the project? You may have to add this to your minimum hourly wage to have a profitable business.
2. Be thorough, realistic and honest when estimating projects
As a freelancer, you may prefer to be paid on an hourly basis or work with fixed project prices. Or maybe a little bit of both.
When you work with fixed prices, it is vital that you sit down and estimate how many hours the project will take. In fixed project cases you usually agree to finish a project within a certain time frame. This time frame could be two weeks.
When the job is completed, you will receive your fixed price. But if it for some reason takes you 3 weeks or two weeks with 18-hour workdays, you will still only be paid the fixed project sum.
Such a situation may suddenly bring harm to your profits and end up being bad business for you. Therfore, as a newbie freelancer we do not recommend that you work on fixed price projects. However, with experience this is an option you must consider.
If you work on an hourly basis, things are often more simple because you are certain to get paid for each hour you work. Still, employers may often request an estimate. If you tell a client that it takes around 20 hours, but end up giving them an invoice for 30 hours, he may not be happy. If it takes much longer than expected, then you might find yourself an unhappy employer. And an unhappy employer is the biggest problem in terms of you receiving full payment.
Therefore, you must take great care when evaluating projects. Do your homework, be realistic and always be honest with yourself and the employer. Transparency is important. If you already after a few days or hours of work can see that your estimation is wrong, contact the employer as early as possible in the process. Always let the client know of any changes.
3. If you are a freelancer, you are your own brand.
As a freelancer, you have your own business. You do in fact own a company, even though you do not have any employees. Any business has a brand, and so do you. This does not mean that you have to do marketing and promote your brand, even though you can with success. But it means that everything you do, say and create make up your own personal brand.
Therefore, remember that every single business interaction determines your image and reputation. It forms your personal brand.
To be honest, you should also be aware that your behavior in personal settings may impact your reputation. You can find tons of examples of people, who have made mistakes in private that have destroyed their career. The more well-known you are the more likely this is to happen, but with the speed things spread on the internet today, it can happen to anyone.
4. You are a brand – Brands have customer service right?
One of the most important aspects of customer service is professional and timely communication. Never forget to call, text or write back to you clients. And do it in a timely fashion and with an appropriate tone of voice. Your own personal policy of answering any inquiries within 48 hours could be a great idea.
However, don’t answer every single e-mail you receive within 5 minutes, then it just looks like you have nothing else to do. It is much better to determine that e.g. every morning of each work day you use 30 min to answer your e-mails. This will also prohibit you from mixing up your work-life and private life too much.
Your first interaction with a client is always the most important. Just as it is with brands first contact with a consumer. Therefore, remember to start you customer service already from the very first time you contact or are contacted by a client. Be prepared for your first meeting and do all the research you can about the client and job they offer.
Afterwards, remember to continue this service throughout the entire process. Do it all the way from before you win the potential bid to when you completed the job and ask the client for feedback, a recommendation and/or testimonials.
5. Don’t take in more freelance projects than you can handle
This might sound like a luxury problem, but it is something that can affect yourself and your business negatively.
Every single client you have expects to be treated as if they were your only client. You have to do a good job, finish within the deadline and provide good service. If you suddenly start to take in more projects than you handle, one of two bad things will happen.
1: You will work your ass off day-in-day-out to be sure to finish all projects on time. You will in return risk to burn-out and get stress, and you family might start to wonder when you have time for them. Of course, it does not have to be this dramatic. In short periods of time, most people can manage to put in an extra and extraordinary effort, but over time, it will kill you slowly.
2: You will be unable to finish on time, unable to deliver your usual standard and unhappy clients will start to be in line to yell at you. This might even be despite the fact that you work your ass off. This might result in a bad review, a tarnished reputation and in troubles receiving payment. Unhappy clients are not always great at paying freelancers on time.
6. Use social media
Remember how I said that just because you have a personal brand it doesn’t mean that you have to market and advertise it? Well, that is still true, you don’t have to, but it will definitely only benefit your business.
Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Youtube are just a few of the largest social media channels that you can use to display yourself, your work and your services.
You do not have to set aside a big budget for promoting yourself on social media. Try it out and start out by seeing how much you can get out of it for free. But be aware that you will most likely need to spend some money, at some point, to really get it going.
If you are born into the digital world, it might be easier for you to use the social media channels. You might even know which of these are most relevant for your target audience.
However, if you do not know much about social media, start out by choosing one or two that you will try to learn. Then ask people in your network which social media they think would be best for you. Luckily, you can find tons of resources and guides for all kinds of social media online.
7. Minimize the risks of employer-freelancer conflicts
Conflicts between you and one of you clients are almost bound to happen at some point. The most important thing in terms of avoiding conflicts is a solid agreement before you start to work. Of course, if you don’t do you job well, it doesn’t matter what you agree, but that you already know.
Before any job is taken, you will usually have to sign a contract with the employer, which the employer provides. You must always do yourself the favor of reading through every bit of this contract. Always know what you are saying yes to. But don’t be scared to add things to the contract.
The importance of a detailed contract cannot be underestimated. Does the contract clarify how many hours a day you are expected to work? Is lunch or hotel accommodation included? What tools are you expected to bring yourself and which are provided by the employer? What should you do if the time-schedule slips?
Make sure that the answer to these questions can be found in the contract. This will minimize the risks of conflicts. We have actually developed a “working-agreement” template in excel that you are free to download. You can use it for inspiration or show it to your clients. Download the working agreement here.
8. Never underestimate the value of strong relationships and references
It does not really matter what kind of freelancer you are. Writers, marketers, carpenters, painters, electricians, it-experts, business consultants or engineers all benefit from strong relationships with clients.
A strong business relationship will usually result in great references. It may even result in the client spreading the word about your skills to other interested parties. But strong relationships and good references do not just automatically appear.
To get a strong relationship with you clients, you need to follow our advice of providing customer services through the entire duration of the project. Right from before getting the job to after it is finished.
When the job is complete, you need to follow up and do an effort to get feedback. Don’t be shy to ask for references or recommendations. They may know of other clients that would welcome your services. Most clients will also happily give you a good reference and help you on your way, if you deserved it.
Therefore, we recommend you to set up processes for dealing with clients after project completion. For instance, you could take contact to every client 6 months after the project completion. Do this to check that everything goes well. Remember to let them know that if they ever need your services again, you will be available.
Being hired by a client once is good, twice is better and everything beyond that is just great, and a steady source of income.
9. Manage your time
If you are a freelancer, it means that you are running your own business, without employees. In other words, you have the role of an octopus. You need to manage everything. Accounting, customer service, taxes, planning, job seeking, marketing and probably a few other things as well.
No need to say, it can be challenging. Therefore, you have to be skilled at managing your time. If not, you risk wasting a lot of time that you could be using to work and earn money instead. You may also end up doing nothing but working day in and day out and feeling stressed.
To help you manage your time, use some of the great free tools available for everyone:
- A free online calendar (Google Calender for instance).
- App together with the calendar (Google calendar).
- Backup all you data (Dropbox or Google Drive).
- Google tasks (Let’s you add tasks from your e-mail and syncs with Google Calender).
- Mailchimp (To make standardized e-mail templates e.g. for contacting clients after project completion).
- Dashlane (To keep track of all your passwords online).
10. Submit you profile and CV to a freelance job portal (Preferably ours) 🙂
The most important task for any type of freelancer is arguable to find clients and be visible to them.
Networking, social media, website, personal contacts etc. are all things that can help with that. But there is simply no reason not to be a member of a freelance job portal also unless you are not in need of freelance jobs. As we said earlier, it is also important not to take in more jobs than you can handle.
In most portals, you can free of charge submit you CV and resume. Here companies can then find you when they search the database for relevant and skilled freelancers. Likewise, you can be informed about relevant job posts within your industry and apply for all jobs. Of course, we can only recommend that you try out our job portal – Signing up is completely free and we operate in the entire world.